My goodness! Writing up these posts about our three week stint in Sydney seems to be taking longer than our holiday itself, a situation hardly helped by my knack of over-researching each and every step I take and even taking flight on the wings of numerous stories.
While some would consider delving into the past like this a waste of time or an escape from the present, for me these places really come to life when you find out more about them and their assorted characters. Indeed, even the multifarious fragments of stories I’ve been gathering are riveting and while they might not make a full story in themselves, I’m hoping to join them together into some sort of conglomerate or word collage. We’ll see.
Meanwhile, heading back to the 19th January, I caught the ferry to Circular Quay and the train to St James Station and started walking towards the Art Gallery of New South Wales and it’s new development, Sydney Modern, which is located conveniently next door. Sydney Modern, which is its temporary name, only opened on the 3rd December, 2022. So, it had only been open for about six weeks and it was brand spanking new. Moreover, being our long school Summer holidays, quite a few of my friends had been going and photos were turning up on Facebook which motivated me to overlook the long walk to get there.
My thoughts about Sydney Modern are that it’s massive with vast amounts of space in between works and my feeling was they could’ve moved the paintings closer together and squeezed a few more works up on the wall and there would be more to see. Of course, this is coming from someone whose personal style is “cluttered eclectic” and I’m always trying to squeeze more books into overcrowded book shelves and don’t even talk to me about getting photos up on the walls at home. I have stacks upon stacks of picture frames and I’d probably be able to fill Sydney Modern myself given half the chance. So, I’m hardly one who would leave plenty of room or “pasture” around a painting on a wall. Being a public gallery, I might not want to jam it all in and I’m coming to appreciate the virtues of blank space. Yet, I did feel they could fit more onto the walls without it becoming less.
Before I developed these theories on gallery hanging space, I visited the Aboriginal gallery within Sydney Modern – the Yiribana Gallery, which actually takes pride of place in the new gallery instead of being shut away in the boondocks like it was in the old building. How could a country marginalise the art and culture of its Indigenous people? I don’t know and I guess it’s just part of a broader picture of things I don’t understand. My thinking is too simple. Anyway, I really enjoyed being able to immerse myself in Aboriginal art there and gain a greater appreciation, even if I have a long way to go. If you would like to explore the Yiribana Gallery online, click HERE
Just on this first visit, I didn’t really get a good feel for the new building and barely scratched the surface. However, if you’d like to read more about it, here’s a link: Opening of the Sydney Modern Project.
Before we leave Sydney Modern, I’d just like to share one last thing which was more of an experiential or “participatory” artwork. This was Kimsooja’s Archive of Mind. Visitors to the gallery were given the opportunity to make their own albeit small contribution by taking a lump of clay, rolling it into a ball which was left on a large table becoming part of a a community of balls. We could choose from three different coloured clay and it was meant to be a bit of a relaxing, mindfulness type experience and there’s a brief explanation about what the work’s about:
“Each person has their space and time, but the work also creates a communal space. Working towards a certain state of mind creates a kind of cosmic landscape, a mind-galaxy
– Kimsooja, Korea 1957-
Personally, I found it rather exciting to go to the art gallery and make art or perhaps it’s more of a sculpture myself and to be a contributor and not just a watcher of art. I was also reminded of visiting the art gallery with our son when he was just shy of turning five. We were walking back home across The Domain after visiting the gallery and he found a great big Autumn leaf on the ground. Being a preschooler, he knew all about making leaf prints from Autumn leaves and wanted to take the leaf back to the art gallery so they could make one. He was so enthusiastic. I felt a bit too self-conscious to return to the art gallery with his leaf and explained that the gallery displayed art rather than making it there. Had we gone back, I’m sure the staff would’ve accepted his leaf with grace (unlike his mother) and there’s part of me now that wishes I’d turned back and had more belief in him.
Heading home, I decided to walk back to Circular Quay via the Botanic Gardens instead of walking back to St James Station. Transport wise, the art gallery is in a tricky spot and it’s a fair hike to a station. However, I planned to take it slowly, a bit at a time, and rest along the way and thought I’d be okay. I wasn’t and the walk back to Circular Quay was grueling. It felt like I’d been walking for an eternity and then I finally reached a map and it showed I was only a third of the way through and my legs were aching, exhausted, dead weights. However, I’d unwittingly committed myself to coming out the other side and everywhere I looked there were prohibitive flights of stairs. Tall trees towered overhead and there were moments where I was starting to feel trapped, and like I’d never make it out the other side. I also have a pretty poor sense of direction which didn’t help either and with such limited energy, I couldn’t afford to get lost and even take one more step more than required. Indeed, I was looking for the short cut out.
I guess this is what they call biting off more than you can chew. Moreover, the trouble is you can’t always spit it all out and make everything manageable again. Sometimes, you’re caught up in the flow and all you can do is keep breaking it down into smaller chunks, rest, recover and think about all those powerfully motivating words like resilience, persistence, perseverance, determination, never giving up. Another thing which also would’ve helped is planning ahead, and having some appreciation of not only getting to my destination, but also getting home. Sometimes you can push yourself too far, which is actually counter-productive and even dangerous. You don’t always need to be a hero, and some times being a survivor is good enough.
Obviously, I made it out alive and didn’t get lost in the Botanical Gardens for eternity either. Yippee! Mind you, I can’t say that I really learned to be more cautious about pacing myself, but more of that to come.
Have you been to the Sydney and what did you think? Or, have you been on a similar adventure over in your neck of the woods? If so, I’d love to hear from you.